Welcome to the final stretch of the spring sports schedule, with baseball and softball teams readying themselves for next week’s play-in games.
There are several players that have excelled so far on the diamonds of Southern Arizona and deserve some extra acclaim for their exploits.
We’ll run a list of baseball and softball players that have shined bright this season, with the former making the paper this week, while softball’s stars will be in print next week.
Without further ado, here are the baseball players that have stood out the most during an action-packed regular season:
3-3, 3.32 ERA, 43 strikeouts, 31 2/3 innings pitched
Vincent is a tall right-handed pitcher who is slated to play for the University of New Mexico in a few years. He’s still pretty raw, but has the arm power to pitch in the high-80s with consistency. His strikeouts total through the season shows what he’s capable of as he continues to grow, both literally and figuratively on the diamond. Expect Vincent to put Pusch Ridge into the state title conversation in 2020.
Canyon del Oro
4-2, 1.35 ERA, 59 strikeouts, 41 1/3 innings pitched
Schindler is a legitimate top of the rotation arm for Jason Hisey’s team, with a mixture of pitches he continues to hone as the year progresses. The lanky right-handed athlete throws in the high-70s, but has a couple of off-speed pitches that turn hitters inside-out. I expect Schindler to add to his velocity as he matures on the mound, becoming the next great starting pitcher for the Dorados.
Marana High School
2-0, 1.48 ERA, 25 strikeouts, 28 1/3 innings pitched
Put Foreman in there with Schindler as a name to watch from the class of 2021 in Southern Arizona. The sophomore has shined in his first varsity season under first-year coach Arty Carrera, leading the Tigers in several pitching categories. Foreman’s stellar season on the mound gives the Tigers a future star to build their rotation around, which goes a long way at the high school level.
No. 5: Nate Martinez
Canyon del Oro
5-0, 1.83 ERA, 32 strikeouts, 34 1/3 innings pitched
Martinez is a wily southpaw that has been excellent all year long for Hisey, leading the team in wins, while throwing more than twice as many strikeouts as walks (14) this year. Martinez is holding opposing hitters to a .225 batting average this year, which is pretty impressive for a high school hurler. Martinez, as well as fellow seniors Enrique ‘Kiko’ Romero and Ben Cordova, have CDO in fine position entering the 4A playoffs, with a 15-6 record. Expect the trio to propel the team to another deep run in the postseason, with a collection of arms that give opposing hitters fits.
No. 4: Alec Larson
.385, 25 hits, 15 RBIs, 8 doubles, 3 triples
Larson has been the main offensive threat in Jim Baldwin’s lineup this season, slapping poorly-thrown pitches into gaps to give the Falcons a fighting chance. The net result has been beautiful to watch, with Jim Baldwin’s team racing out to a 15-9 record, in large part due to the bat that Larson has. The 6 foot tall senior doesn’t hit for power very much, with a single home run to his name in 77 at-bats, but does what it takes to drive in runs and put the Falcons in position to score runs.
No. 3: Ajay Ram
485, 33 hits, 19 RBIs, 23 runs, 9 doubles, 4 triples
Ram has been a breakout star for Kevin Baker’s squad, leading the team in hits (33) and doubles. The senior has been a solid middle of the lineup hitter for Baker’s team, giving fellow senior Nathan Baez protection in the lineup. The net result has been a ferocious lineup that’s smashed its way to a 14-8 mark this season, putting the Nighthawks in fine position to reach the 5A postseason, and perhaps make a deep run once they get there. Ram has played a large part in that resurgence and deserves a place on this list as a result.
No. 2: Nathan Baez
410, 25 hits, 20 RBIs, 9 doubles, 2 triples, 2 home runs, 18 stolen bases
Baez is a prototypical Division I recruit, manning the shortstop position with a fine mixture of grace and grit, allowing the Nighthawks to avoid costly errors. The future Arizona State University Sun Devil has been phenomenal in all aspects of the game this season, smacking timely hits while racking up stolen bases and making highlight reel plays in the field. Baez’s unmatched combination of speed and size is fun to watch, and should lead to his name getting called in the 2019 MLB Draft. It’ll be interesting to see whether he signs out of high school, or whether he winds up in Tempe in 2020. Either way, Baez is the best hitter and fielder in the region and is a heck of a lot of fun to watch play the game.
No. 1: Enrique ‘Kiko’ Romero
Canyon del Oro
.421, 32 hits, 18 RBIs, 9 doubles, 3 triples, 3 home runs/1-0, 0.50 ERA, 14 innings pitched, 20 strikeouts
Romero might be the best two-way player in Tucson, with a litany of tools at his disposal offensively to go with a lightning-powered right arm on the mound. The senior has thrived at the plate and on the bump, allowing one earned run in 14 innings pitched, while socking three home runs and a team-best .421 batting average offensively. The only aspect of Romero’s game that could use a bit of honing is his defensive game, as he’s committed four errors this season, though that’s easily corrected at the college level. The future Central Arizona College shortstop could follow in the footsteps of former Dorado Ian Kinsler and go from Coolidge to the MLB Draft in 2020. Don’t be surprised to hear Romero’s name on a television near you in a few years.
Next week: The top-five high school softball players from northwest Tucson’s six high school programs.